August 1, 2021,
It’s been ten minutes since we’ve last spoke.
Are you angrier now than you were before?
Are you resisting the urge to walk outside and hit someone upside the head?
Good. Resist, because you could go to jail for assault and the Criminal Justice System will make you even angrier because when you get out, you won’t have any money left.
Nor a house.
There appears to be a lot of anger in society these days. Especially if you watch the news. In fact, the news appears to make people even angrier than before they turned it on. If you sense people are angrier today than in times past, you are not alone.
According to National Public Radio (npr.org), “Some 84% of people surveyed said Americans are angrier today compared with a generation ago, according to the latest NPR-IBM Watson Health poll. When asked about their own feelings, 42% of those polled said they were angrier in the past year than they had been further back in time.”
Good to know.
When we walk down the streets, we smile at everyone we see. All day.
So the next time you are out in public and someone angrily looks at you, remember, they are not angry at you, they are angry with you.
Wait, that didn’t sound right.
We meant to say they are angry along with you.
So if you find yourself angrier than you were previously, how can you address that anger?
How about go to the movies and watch someone who is angry knock the crap out a very large percentage of people that she meets.
Live vicariously through her. That way, even if she has to go to jail, you won’t.
Jolt is a 2021 American action comedy film, adapted from a screenplay by Scott Wascha and directed by Tanya Wexler. The film stars Kate Beckinsale, Bobby Cannavale, Laverne Cox, Stanley Tucci, and Jai Courtney.
It was released on July 23, 2021 by Amazon Studios.
Brand spanking new. Oops, wrong choice of an angry word. Brand shiny new.
Here is the storyline.
This causes her to react with violent rage at even the slightest transgression because her body has an unusually high level of cortisol, which in turn makes her stronger and faster than normal.
Her parents eventually have her institutionalized due to her violent tendencies. After they fail to control her, the organization puts Lindy in the army, but they are also unsuccessful at controlling her rage. Finally, Lindy is subjected to an experimental (but effective) treatment to control her rage; a form of self-administered shock treatment given through an electrode-lined vest she must wear at all times, allowing her to live a normal life.
Well, if you thought you had something to be angry about, how would like to borrow Lindy’s vest?
Hey, looks good on you.
See, if only we could laugh at ourselves. Right?
Well we’re no experts on anger but we have researched someone who appears to be and can helpful in providing you with suggestions on how to address your anger.
Mr. Dennis Bradford is a graduate of Blair Academy and Syracuse University.
He obtained his doctorate from The University of Iowa in 1977 and is the author of 28 published books -- most of which are on better thinking and balanced living. He's a former member of MENSA and The American Philosophical Association. He taught humanities and philosophy for 32 years at SUNY Geneseo.
Anger Management Techniques - 7 Effective Steps
Since anger is the most dangerous emotion, anger management techniques are important.
Since they evolved, emotions are at least sometimes valuable when it comes to surviving and reproducing. One of their important functions is to narrow our focus, which minimizes distractions when confronted with a problem. The price we pay for this is automatically filtering out information inconsistent with the emotion we are experiencing and that information can be important.
The word 'anger' actually denotes a family of related experiences. They differ not only in strength (from very mild annoyance to rage) but in other ways as well. Their target may be inner-directed or outer-directed. They may be active (revenge) or passive (sulking). Unless they are directed at oneself, they usually have a self-righteous or moral edge.
Anger can be useful in that it can motivate action. For example, you might attempt to right a wrong, to cure an injustice. Even if the behavior is violent it may stimulate beneficial change.
Anger accelerates heart rate and increases blood pressure. It stimulates the familiar "fight or flight" response, and that response could fuel behavior that saves your life.
Furthermore, anger can defend us against other emotions such as agony and fear. In fact, while many people find anger toxic, some hostile people actually enjoy being angry.
Nevertheless, mastering effective anger management techniques is important. Being angry does not really feel good. Typically, you feel tension, pressure, and heat. There is a tendency to bite down hard, thrust your chin forward, and move toward the target in order to punish or harm it.
Worse, being angry can create more suffering than it diminishes. This is the most important reason why anger management techniques are important.
For example, any violence directed at the target may be misplaced. That person or agent may not be responsible. Furthermore, even if an act of violence would be normal or socially approved, it may not be instrumental and may be disproportionate.
Though they occasionally get angry, sages never indulge in anger; instead, they practice forbearance.
Assuming that you are angry and do not want to be, what should you do? The best, most effective anger management techniques are these:
- Accept responsibility for your situation. Effective anger management techniques begin with your attitude.
In EMOTIONS REVEALED, Paul Ekman argues that there are 9 different types of causes of emotions. Some triggers we all share, but those that are culture-specific and individual-specific are learned. Repeated experiences generate habits that he calls "automatic appraising mechanisms."
These have evolutionary value. For example, when your welfare is at stake, they enable you to respond quickly without having to think about what to do. You learned at a very early age that, if you were thwarted by someone interfering with what you really wanted to do, you could sometimes get what you want by moving toward, threatening, or even attacking the person who was interfering with you. You learned how to be angry at others and, eventually, internalized that learning.
Your evolutionary heritage made this kind of emotional learning possible. Obviously, it can be adaptive when it comes to your surviving or reproducing.
Still, it is all about you! It is all about you getting what you want. It is wholly self-centered. It depends upon separating what is valuable for you for what is valuable for someone else.
Separation is the cause of suffering. Even though it has survival value, emotional separation creates suffering. There is no free lunch; increased suffering is the price we pay for being emotional creatures. This is why we all need to learn effective anger management techniques.
Notice the structure of the experience I just described. You were pursuing some goal or other when someone thwarted that pursuit. You thought something like, "Someone stopped me from doing what I want to do." That judgment was immediately followed by an egocentric evaluation: "This is bad for me." That resulted in a set of feelings or sensations. That state of anger motivated your behavior that, in this case let us imagine, was successful because it removed the interference.
Notice that there would have been no anger without the self-centered evaluation that "This is bad for me." That is the evaluation that is important to own. Nobody else created the anger: you did. The world did not make you angry. Something happened, and you reacted by becoming angry.
- Identify the emotion at the core of your situation.
Anger management techniques are solutions. Solutions require problems. What, exactly, is the problem you are trying to solve?
It is dissolving an emotion. Which emotion? Identify it clearly. Is it really anger?
This can be difficult to do. Emotions infrequently occur in splendid isolation. Often two emotions become linked. For example, fear often precedes and follows anger. Also, two emotions can alternate in rapid sequence and even blend together. Furthermore, one emotion can stimulate another as when you become angry at yourself for, say, becoming afraid.
- Identify the cause of the anger.
This, too, can be difficult to do. Anger management techniques work by removing the cause of the anger. What causes anger in a given case may not immediately be clear.
As the anger example may have suggested, emotional responses that you have learned can become involuntary. They can be so automatic or habitual that they are very difficult to notice. This is why the next step is one of the most important anger management techniques.
- Keep a written log about your anger episodes.
Each time you become angry, jot down in a notebook the judgment that you made about the situation. What, exactly, was it? Was it accurate?
After your automatic negative evaluation, exactly how did you feel? Also, what are you saying to yourself about it right now?
In order to master effective anger management techniques, it is necessary to increase your awareness of what you are experiencing.
- Question the evaluation.
Of the anger management techniques, in any given case this may be the only one required for success.
It depends upon admitting this fact: Nobody knows the future. Whatever caused your anger will have future consequences. The key here is to notice that the future consequences of the event that triggered your anger are (presently) unknown.
Once you admit that, please also admit that those consequences could be better than you now imagine. After all, how many times in the past has something happened that, although you thought at the time was bad, turned out later to have very good consequences?
Questioning your evaluation in this way automatically weakens it. If your present anger is not too powerful, this realization alone may be sufficient to enable you to let it go. If not, go on to the next step.
- Attack your anger indirectly.
Any anger management techniques that depend up attacking anger directly cannot work effectively. When you are angry, just telling yourself that you should not feel anger will not help. It may just make you feel guilty, thus creating another problem. Never "should" on your emotions. Instead, undermine them indirectly.
There are three anger management techniques that work effectively to do this.
The first of these three anger management techniques is simply to use a simple breathing exercise. I recommend practicing one twice daily whether you are feeling emotional or not. Each session can be as short as 90 seconds! Believe it or not, once you develop that habit, 90 seconds may be all it takes to let a troubling emotion go! This is an easy, surprisingly helpful habit.
However, by itself, if your anger is of sufficient intensity, it will not enable you to let go of it.
The second is to go for a brisk walk for half an hour or so until you are comfortably tired physically. Try for two miles in just under thirty minutes. Of course, some people may not be able to walk, while others may prefer to substitute some other fitness exercise. Regular fitness exercise is a very beneficial habit for a host of reasons. During it, instead of focusing on your anger, count your steps in order to focus your attention elsewhere. You can simply count from 1 to 10 repeatedly; if you lose count, just start again at 1.
If your anger is mild or of very moderate intensity, this may enable you to let it go. Still, by itself, it will not work if your anger is intense.
The third way is by using zazen meditation (or some similar spiritual practice). This requires learning it and practicing daily (whether you are angry or not).
Three great advantages that zazen meditation has over any other kind of spiritual practice is that it is the simplest, it is the easiest to learn, and it requires that you believe nothing except that it might work. (In other words, you do not have to buy into a whole creed to use it.) If you master zazen meditation sufficiently, it will work for any emotion-and it will work quickly, within hours or, at most, days. (If the anger is really intense, you may have to "sit" more than once.)
This is the middle way of dealing with emotions. It lies between the two counter-productive extremes of venting and ignoring. It involves acknowledging the reality of a passion, which is wise because it avoids trying to ignore something that is an important part of your life, and it involves failing to act with that passion as a motivation, which is wise because it avoids perpetuating and possibly strengthening the passion.
(Any behavior that diminishes suffering that is motivated by anger can still be effective if it is motivated by clear-headed thinking.)
If the first or second exercises fail to work this time for your anger and you have yet to get very far with zazen meditation, go on to the next step.
- Seek the counsel of a sage.
Unfortunately, because sages are few and far between, of the anger management techniques listed here this may be the most difficult to do.
Though it is rather popular and does help some people to some degree, in my judgment psychotherapy is of limited value. You might try behavior therapy or neurolinguistic programming to help enable you to let go of your anger.
Alternatively, you may happen to know a wise person willing to befriend you. Perhaps there is a spiritual leader (such as a qualified zen master) who is willing to help you help yourself.
The key is to realize that you do need to enable yourself to let go of the anger that is poisoning your life. Please avoid thinking that there is a quick, magical cure somewhere "out there" that will work. There is not.
Before you despair, however, I remind you of the first step: since you created your own suffering, you have the potential to end it. Furthermore, once you teach yourself how to end it, you have the opportunity to make the practice that worked for you a habit, to internalize what you have learned so that it becomes automatic. Once you make it a habit, from an emotional perspective the rest of your life will be better than your life has been up until now.
This is how sages get to be sages. There is no such thing as a sage who has failed to master an effective spiritual practice such as zazen meditation. There is no reason why you, too, cannot master one.
That hope itself may enable you to survive some very dark nights.
I wish you peace.
Copyright 2009 by Ironox Works, Inc. All rights reserved.
Dennis E. Bradford, Ph.D., has been pursuing wisdom as a philosopher for 45 years and helping people think more clearly and live better for 32 years. For more on flourishing emotionally, just go to the emotional well-being category of his blog at http://dennis-bradford.com/.
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